Everyone will experience trauma or some type of extreme stress during their lifetime. Trauma involves losses such as illness, death of a pet or loved one, divorce, and job loss. It also includes abuse, accidents, military combat, and dramatic changes that occur throughout life.
In a perfect world when something traumatic happens we are able to take time to process our thoughts and emotions, be surrounded and nurtured by a support system, and have some time to adjust. However, for many people one or all of these aspects of healthy coping and healing do not exist.
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The American Psychological Association’s definition of trauma is “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. When you experience trauma, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and not feel like yourself for a period of time. However, if you are still experiencing difficulty after a few weeks, you may benefit from therapy.
Here are some suggestions to help you cope with stress and trauma.
Talk About It: Talk about what happened to you. Talk about what you saw, smelled, touched, heard, and how all of that made you feel. Talk about how you are feeling now. Talk about your loss, talk about a plan to go forward…Don’t stop talking! It will help you work through the stress and trauma you experienced. Joining a therapy group with others who experienced the same traumatic event may give you a place to feel safe to open up if you are uncomfortable talking to your family and friends.
Rest, Exercise & Eat Healthy: This is difficult for us to do when we feel overwhelmed and devastated, but taking care of yourself physically is essential to the emotional and mental healing process after experiencing trauma and high levels of stress.
Allow Yourself to Grieve: Traumatic experiences can be the source of an extreme amount of loss including safety, death, possessions, security, dreams, and a sense of identity. There are 5 common stages of grief a person usually experiences: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. However, there is no one way to grieve or any specific order to experience these stages so allow yourself to work through whatever you are feeling in your own timing.
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Use the Resources Available to You: Allow yourself to accept help as it is offered to you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. People need people. Sometimes our trauma consists of being harmed by a person and it can be difficult to know who to trust. Allowing others to help you builds a sense of confidence and hope for the future, and helps nurture the healing process. Remember that you are not alone in your pain and suffering and you need the support and encouragement of other people.
Manage Internal Stress & Anxiety: Panic, worry, and fear may overwhelm you. Use a deep breathing exercise to stay calm and manage your anxiety. Try the 747: Slowly breathe in through your nose counting to 7 – hold your breath as you count to 4 – then breathe slowing out of your mouth counting to 7. Repeat as many times as needed. This exercise will help you think clearly and immediately decrease your level of stress and anxiety.